Satisfaction In Christ
By Dr. W. Wilbert Welch, Longtime President
Grand Rapids Baptist College & Seminary
Philippians – a remarkable product of Paul’s inspired pen. Here is the distilled essence of Biblical Christianity. Only four chapters and one hundred four verses. I recommend it be read at least once a month for our best spiritual health, easily read in twenty minutes.
The book of Philippians reveals Christianity in work clothes, a brand appropriate for both youth and the more mature, for the home as well as the office, for the factory worker and the business executive, and certainly appropriate for both the pastor and the pew.
In just a brief reading we soon become aware that Paul is focusing upon the quality of our Christianity (1:6). The emphasis is not correctional as the letters to the Corinthians, nor strong on doctrine as Romans, nor with problems of legalism as in his letter to the Galatians. Even its location in the Pauline epistles seems to harmonize with a doctrinal blueprint.
While the author may not have had any special sequential order in mind, yet we recognize a doctrinal orderliness in these epistles. In the book of Romans the believer is seen “in Christ” justified. In Corinthians we are viewed as “sanctified.” In Galatians we are “crucified” in Christ. In Ephesians we are seated with Christ “in the heavenlies.” In Philippians the believer is satisfied – “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Philippians 4:11). In Colossians we see our completeness. “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10). And in Thessalonians the Lord “is glorified in His saints” (II Thessalonians 1:10). The circle is complete.
And who is the author? Paul, a prisoner in Rome. And not one word of grumbling or of discontent. Where did this man go to school? What church did he attend? Please note the author’s background: a prisoner in Caesarea for two years. Shipped to Rome by sea. Endured a 14-day storm. Paul and the ship’s crew of 218 men went 14 days with no food. Shipwrecked three months on the Isle of Melita. Finally at Rome imprisoned. Chained to a guard in six-hour shifts. But – note, no complaints. “For to me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). “I press toward the mark for the prize” (Philippians 3:14). And “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
What kind of Christianity does this man possess? At Philippi he was beaten – his hands and feet in stocks. And he sings. Throw him in jail and he walks out – figuratively, with a jail door under one arm and a convert under the other.
We should note also the people, the church, to whom Paul is writing. See verse one: “to all the saints in Christ Jesus.” Amazingly, this includes Euodia and Syntyche of chapter four, who were not in harmony with each other. This was their spiritual location. “At Philippi” was their geographical location. Paul adds “pastors and deacons,” not because they weren’t “saints” but they were the leaders. Remarkable! God calls us what we are before the product is finished. Let us remember – the church is made up of saints. Remember this in all our relationships with fellow believers: in worship, in business meetings, even when someone disagrees with us. We are “saints” in blueprint, but the Lord sees the finished product.
Remember, the church is not for people but for the process of perfecting. I am not all I want to be, nor all I should be, nor all I will be by His grace. But I’m grateful to the Lord I’m not what I used to be. I think it was Dr. Warren Wiersbe who said, “Dwelling with the saints above, oh that will be glory. But living with the saints below – that’s another story.”
Let’s apply what Paul penned for the enrichment of our personal lives. I’ve selected a special verse in each chapter for our focus.
Chapter 1 – Our Purpose (Aim)
“For me to live is Christ” (1:21)
To me, the major theme of Paul’s first chapter is a “Christ Commending Lifestyle.” He expresses his earnest desire that the Lord be magnified in his life and then provides the key to make this a reality. Note verse 21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Only 12 words, all monosyllabic. But life-transforming. May we examine the first seven words – “For to me to live is Christ.” Only 21 letters.
The big question, What is the “me”? Here is the key if we would magnify Christ in this life. Let’s focus our “spotlight” on the “me.” Who are you?
1. A Physical Being. Paul speaks of his “body” (Vs. 22). This is pretty important. This is where God started. An instrument on loan to us. Have you ever sought to function without it? Everything I am or will be is because I am (have) a body. Paul said we are not our own (I Corinthians 6:19-20: “What, know ye not – bought with a price. Glorify God in your body”). God gave His Son a body. His body became a substitute body – a sacrifice substitute. Otherwise there would be no redemption for us.
Our responsibility through the enablement of the Holy Spirit is to 1) present it daily to the Lord: Romans 12:1; 2) keep it in subjection: I Corinthians 9:27; and 3) keep it focused on Christ: Philippians 1:21.
The body is a wonderful instrument, a gift through which we enjoy life in measurable segments – hours, days, weeks, months, years. A treasured possession on which we write checks every day.
“For to me to live” physically for Christ is life in its largest dimension, for life is eating, sleeping, playing, working, getting up, going to bed. Life is school, classroom, office, store, factory and church. Life is fun and games, but it is also struggle, pain, disappointments, stress, sorrow, loneliness, tears, conflict, and failure. For Paul, it was being shackled to a guard in prison. For Paul, the body was shackled but not his spirit. Paul’s consuming ambition was that Christ would be magnified in his body (Philippians 1:20). But the “me” is much more than just a body. When God made man, he made him the product of His infinite wisdom – a remarkably complex creature. And Paul now writes that every facet is to be focused on Christ.
The “me” is a physical being, a body; but much, much more. Man is also a spiritual being. God breathed into him the Spirit of life. And more. He is a very complex “soulual” being, too, that is, he is an intellectual being, a volitional being, and emotional creature as well as a social being. And Paul now states that this total “me,” this very complex creature, is to have its focus upon Christ. Only then can the perfect design of the Lord be fulfilled – “and to die is gain.”
2. A Spiritual Being. God breathed into man’s nostrils the “breath of life” which provided man with a spiritual dimension, making man distinct from all others. God animated the flesh with His Spirit. Man has the capacity of knowing God; no other creature made from dust has this spiritual, eternal, God-focused dimension. The Lord gave a guideline in the exercising of man’s spiritual provision, a guideline which man violated, with spiritual and physical death the product. The body, the physical is temporal. The Lord animated this body with His Spirit. With the disobedience of our first parents we now are spiritually dead and must be “born again” or born of His Spirit (John 3:3 and 5) if we are to have eternal life.
3. An Intellectual Being. The “me” of Philippians 1:21 can think, reason, and plan. What a wonderful gift, but one not to be wrongly focused. Our greatest failure is at this very point. Paul is saying our minds must be focused upon Christ. He warned in Romans 1:21 that “knowing God, they glorified Him not as God … became vain in their imaginations.” Our serious problem today is not the keenness of our thinking, but rather perverse, anti-God thinking.
The importance of our mind cannot be measured. The mind is not like a book; the content of the book does not change the book itself. Nor is the mind like a bank, since the bank is not changed by what we put into it. But the mind is the key to what we become. The mind changes us. Proverbs 23:7 states, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
Note what Paul writes in Romans 1:28, “and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind” (adokimos, one that thinks, speaks, acts deceitfully). This is “twisted thinking.” Can any word better describe our age? How else can we explain a social/legal mentality that prosecutes and imprisons a young mother for murdering her three-month-old baby and placing the body in a garbage can? But if she had done this three months earlier through abortion it would have been socially/legally accepted. We are approving this at 4,000 per day. This is wrong thinking in both Washington and Lansing (the capitol of Michigan).
Our minds are the targets of Satan. The mind is where Satan attacked Eve. Paul pinpoints this when he wrote, “I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted” (II Corinthians 11:3). We need to have every thought brought into the captivity of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5). Paul said the believer is to be selective in his thinking (Philippians 4:8): “whatsoever things are true … think on these things.”
Be selective about what you watch and what you read. Tell me what you place in your mind and I’ll tell you what you are becoming. With our mind we shape our future. “For to me to live ‘intellectually’ is Christ.”
4. A Volitional Creature. “For to me to live volitionally is Christ.” What a remarkable gift! We can “choose.” We can weigh values and then say “yes” or “no.” Joshua wrote, “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
This is a wonderful gift but also a very dangerous gift. With their “will” Adam and Eve violated God’s will and all their descendents today struggle with a perverted will. Too often our volitional gift becomes self-centered. “To will is present with me but how to perform that which is good I find not” (Romans 7:18).
Multitudes are lost today because of a wrong choice. Jesus said, “You will not come to me.” If we are saved today, a child of God, this is true not only because God made a provision for our forgiveness but because we chose to believe.
For the richest life we need to make the decision (choose) to say with Paul, “For to me to live ‘volitionally’ is Christ.” Every day and every hour I make choices. May those choices have their focus on what pleases the Lord.
God has given to each of us a most significant key for a rich and rewarding life – a key we hold in our hand 24 hours a day. Note – “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.” Paul did, and what a life! It relates to our attitude when we slip into a valley. Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1).
Actually, we live each day with the product of our personal vote. We can obey or not obey. Paul the Apostle lists a number of pleasurable emotions in Philippians 4:8 and then writes “think on these things.” This is a choice of our will. We can choose or refuse but we then live with the result of our choice. What the Lord has commanded he enables us to do. If the Lord says so plainly, “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice,” may we be assured He has made it possible for us to rejoice, whatever the current circumstances. Paul writes these words while in a prison and shackled to a Roman guard.
5. An Emotional Being. If my “me” is to be focused on the Lord, I need to understand the complexity of the “me.” Without any question the Lord created Adam and Eve and their descendents with a wide range of emotions, with joy and happiness near the top of the lists. We were created in His likeness and can experience His joy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).
By our personal choice, and by the enablement of the Holy Spirit, we can focus the emotional portion of our being on Christ, especially the brighter emotions of love, joy and peace (Galatians 5:22), the fruit of the Spirit-directed life. If Paul and Silas could sing at midnight in the Philippian dungeon, then the message is very clear that a positive emotional tone is not dependent upon pleasant circumstances, but rather upon our choice and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.
It has been my observation that the positive emotional tone of Christians becomes the fragrant aroma which attracts many hungry-hearted people to Christ (II Corinthians 2:14-15). We should give thanks to the Lord daily for the gift of emotions. No other creation of the Lord, animate or inanimate, has this gift. Plants and animals are programmed, computerized, but not man. He can be positive or negative. He can be joyful or sad. When we begin our day, our cup can be half full or half empty. This is our choice.
Granted that because of our fallen nature we too often reflect the negative of our emotions, but through the Lord’s redemptive work we can become a new creation in Christ. Paul understood this and states it in Philippians 1:21, “For to me ‘the emotional being’ to live is Christ.” As believers we need to focus the totality of our being on the Lord. One of the most attractive emotions is joy. It was a central motivating emotion in the Lord’s ministry, even when faced with Calvary, “who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2).
This was His desire for His followers as He prayed for us in His priestly prayer, “that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13). Just prior to that hour He instructed His followers that He made provision for them to know His joy (John 15:11 and John 16:24), and then at Pentecost He sent the Holy Spirit who produces in and through the believer His nine fold fruit, most of which pertains to our emotional being (Galatians 5:22).
6. A Social Being. At the very beginning the Lord said, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18) and gave Adam a companion. God made man a social being and this too is to focus upon Christ. Our failure in the Garden of Eden seriously twisted the social potential of the human race. Jealousy, anger and strife wrecked the first family and that same friction has been evident in every generation. God’s standard is that we should “love the Lord our God” but also we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
We witness the sad antithesis of such a utopia. Homes are broken. Families divided. Nations are at war. Political parties battle over leadership principles. Religions are divided. And our conservative churches are divided on acceptable worship styles, contemporary and traditional music, and what constitutes appropriate Biblical standards for a church.
In one simple seven-word statement Paul sets before us a north star which, if we would apply to our total being, would be transformational in our personal life, in our homes, and in our churches. Even the non-Christian community would sense an attractive fragrance in these people who professed to be followers of Christ. Once again – “For me [the total me – the physical, spiritual, intellectual, volitional, emotional and social portions of our being] to live is Christ” or “to be focused upon pleasing Him in all aspects of my life.” May this be our aim and prayer.
For further study on the next three chapters:
Chapter 2 – Our Attitude
“Let this mind be in you” (2:5)
Chapter 3 – Our Pursuit (Ambition)
“I press toward the mark” (3:14)
Chapter 4 – Our Product (Actions)
“Therefore – ” (4:1)